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By: Jason Amadi, MMATorch Columnist
Trevor writes: Why is Jon Fitch being held back? Please help me in my quest to get Fitch the recognition he deserves as a warrior who always comes to fight and is always willing to put on a show. Jon Fitch, title challenger 2012!
A: First of all, I've never quite understood why people feel that Jon Fitch deserves more recognition than he gets; even his most ardent detractors recognize the fact that he's the second best welterweight in the world. The fact that Fitch has to work hard for every opportunity he gets is precisely why Fitch gets the recognition that he does.
As far as Fitch being held back by the UFC goes, I don't think that idea holds up very well to scrutiny.
Jon Fitch debuted in the UFC as a middleweight against Brock Larson in October 2005, but didn't make his welterweight debut in the organization until April 2006. That year, Matt Hughes reasserted his dominance at 170 lbs. by dominating a returning Royce Gracie and defeating lineal UFC Welterweight Champion, B.J. Penn.
By the end of 2006, Hughes was dethroned by Georges St-Pierre. The next title bout was set to go to the winner of the comeback season of The Ultimate Fighter, Matt Serra, and we all know how that went. Serra was set to defend his title against Matt Hughes after filming yet another season of The Ultimate Fighter reality series, but suffered an injury during training. GSP replaced him at UFC 79, thumped Matt Hughes for a second time and then battered Matt Serra to regain the UFC Welterweight Championship. Once that whole sequence of events played itself out, Jon Fitch was next to challenge for the title.
I recapped all of that to illustrate the fact that at no point during that entire period was Jon Fitch any sort of obvious number one contender. It was certainly unfortunate for Fitch that his rise to prominence at 170 happened to coincide with the return of B.J. Penn, the biggest upset in MMA history and two separate meetings between the most dominant welterweights of all time, but I fail to see how any of this was designed to "hold back" the former Purdue Boilermaker.
Since that point, the UFC tried to provide Fitch with big name opponents to get him back in the title picture, but multiple injuries to Thiago Alves and the arrival of Jake Shields complicated things. A win over B.J. Penn would have been exactly what Fitch needed to earn his second shot at GSP, but that fight was (erroneously) scored a draw.
This Friday night is Fitch's latest opportunity to make his case for the next title shot after Nick Diaz squares off against Carlos Condit for the Interim UFC Welterweight Championship in 2012. However, it's important to remember that, aside from his UFC 141 opponent Johny Hendricks, Fitch is also competing with up and coming knockout artist Jake Ellenberger over that same opportunity.
With Ellenberger already having brutally stopped Sean Pierson in May and then Jake Shields in September, assuming he is able to stop Diego Sanchez in his next bout and record his third consecutive stoppage, Fitch would need an impressive performance against Hendricks to have any hope of getting the next title shot. At this stage of the game, the ball is in Jon Fitch's court.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JasonAmadi and send your "Ask the Torch" questions to email@example.com
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